L&T Mumbai Open WTA 125K Series: MSLTA Focused On Spreading Tennis To Small Towns In Maharashtra

L&T Mumbai Open WTA 125K Series: MSLTA Focused On Spreading Tennis To Small Towns In Maharashtra

Secretary Sundar Iyer feels WTA Mumbai Open is helping the Indian girls immensely

Haridev PushparajUpdated: Thursday, February 08, 2024, 10:39 PM IST
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With the ongoing L&T Mumbai Open WTA 125K Series event in full swing, the Maharashra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA) is aiming to use this as a platform for budding Indian talent.

In an exclusive interview with Free Press Journal, MSLTA Secretary Sundar Iyer spoke about the exposure Indian girls who received wildcards are getting.

“The tournament gives our girls the confidence. Most of the girls are ok with a 25k mark. When they came to 125k, performance changed and attitude changed. Our Indian girls have a great standing and future. Ankita Raina reached quarters in 2017 and there was no looking back thereafter,’’ he added.

Iyer stated the girls were handed out wildcards on certain criteria.

“There are top four girls. None of the girls qualified except one. We chose them by the ranking and the state. It’s not just about Maharashtra but India overall.

Iyer also dwelt upon the organisational challenges at the Mumbai Open.

“It’s very tough to organise an event such as this because the conditions of organising this event is similar to that of a 250k event. Some of the top players in the world are playing this tournament. For instance Stormhunter is World No 2 in doubles and world No 1 in the Australian Open. Playing in the Australian Open, the conditions there and these conditions have to be similar. In terms of transportation, food and hospitality. The conditions are as stringent as 250k except from the prize money.”

The MSLTA secretary was elated by the impressive performances of Sahaja Yamalapalli and Shrivalli Bhamidipaty.

“We didn’t see this coming. Girls had thanked us when we gave the cards. I told them if you win, that would be the biggest thanks. Women’s tennis gets its due. Ankita and Rutuja have not got their due. This will also help us for this campaign in March in Fed Cup. We will have a team to choose. We are playing Group I. Qualified only once for World Group.”

Iyer also offered a sneak peek into the future plans.

“We did tournaments worth Rs 3.5 crore since last year. We organised a lot of ITF events for men and women. Next week there is an ATP Challenger 100,000k in Pune, then 25k tournament in Nagpur in first week of March. The whole aim of MSLTA to spread tennis in various parts of Maharashtra. Apart from Nagpur, we had tournaments in Navi Mumbai and Solapur. We have our nationals in Kolhapur and Aurangabad. We had two Asian junior championships in Aurangabad. Now all our eight divisional centres are ready to host international tournaments,’’ he revealed.

“The next plan is to do atleast eight international events in next year. Two or three bigger events like this in 2024-25. Lot of junior tournaments. We are working to organise local-level tournaments in Mumbai. This event will stay here for atlest five years. We are also planning to organise a men’s 25k dollar event in Mumbai. We are organising tournaments for children. Next week we will have under-12 Nationals, 300-400 players from all over India participating,’’ Iyer added.

“We have started a circuit for U-10 called ‘Suhana’ circuit. We don’t do it in the bigger cities. We only do this in smaller cities like tier-I and tier-II cities. This year we did 26 tournaments. In places like Baramati, Jalgaon, Ichalkaranji, Satara. Not much facilities there but we want these young players to come into the fold,’’ he added.

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